Milton: Ticats’ counter-punching ability a sign of maturity

CFL Football

When it’s right, one of sport’s most attractive qualities is a constant parade of response and counter-response.

If you react better than the opponent does, or immediately counter-react even better after the opponent has reacted well, then it’s likely you’re going to win.

Because of that – and because they’ve pretty darned good on all three sides of the ball – the Hamilton Tiger-Cats are tied for first place in the CFL East.

There is a maturing process involved in having the timing to pick up the opponents’ gauntlet when it’s thrown, or to immediately wolf down what they have left on the table. And the Ticats did both against the Argos in their 34-18 victory on a weather-threatened Holiday Monday night

This is a Ticat team which has been maturing, eventually if not always steadily, for the first three years of Kent Austin’s regime.

And Zach Collaros is at the forefront, although Orlondo Steinauer’s defence and Jeff Reinebold’s special teams are right there too.

Still learning, Collaros is striking when the iron is hot and, almost more importantly, when the other team thinks it’s hot.

In the first series after the Argonauts had pulled themselves up by their bootstraps to go 75 yards and jubilantly slice a 14-0 lead in half, Collaros marched his team down the field for 63 yards and a pay dirt strike to Terrence Toliver that was two minutes of precision.

And early in the second half, with lightning no longer crashing, the Argos did, going for it on a brave, but ill-advised, third-and-one from the Ticats’ 42-yard-line. Eric Norwood and a bunch of his friends made the stop on Toronto quarterback Trevor Harris to turn the ball over to Collaros and his friends.

Five passes, four complete, and 102 seconds later Collaros had put the ball into the end zone to Grant on what will always be credited as a three-yard pass but was in reality about a 45-yard vector to the left corner of the end zone. That made it 27-9Ticats and was essentially the game.

That kind of putting the sleeper hold on a team which has just been dropped to the mat, has not always been a Ticat long suit.

There were a number of other examples of Collaros’ and Tommy Condell’s offence emptying the Argos of hope when the defence – becoming addicted to third-down stops – had already started the process.

It didn’t help Toronto’s cause that they muffled a couple of long drives, both in yardage and on the clock, into three or zero points in the second half but the Cats’ defence had a pretty important say in that too. They are an angry, fast, and very difficult-to-predict unit and have been for the better part of two seasons. A major difference starting to emerge this year is that the offence is amplifying the momentum built up by the defence, with timely drives.

Collaros was an efficient 21 for 27 in passing for 229 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Timing was everything for him and his offence in this game, and they never gave back the ball, or momentum, the defence (five second-half turnovers) and a special-teams touchdown had provided them.

The Argos have a lot going for them, and look very much like a playoff team, providing Harris continues to replace Ray as well as he has, and as Collaros did when he was Harris’ roommate in Toronto.

It’s too bad, really, that these two teams will be done with each other the week after Labour Day.

But Hamilton just might see the Argos after that, even if the Ticats don’t.

If the Blue Jays make the post-season, as everyone not involved with double blue hopes, the Argos would have to search for an alternative to Rogers Centre for their games in October. You keep hearing that it could be Varsity Stadium, but more likely Tim Hortons Field. The Argonauts move into BMO Field for next season.

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